Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vidal Sassoon's Bad Hair Day

Michael and I caught the Vidal Sassoon documentary over the weekend in the East Village. What a pity the makers of the film didn't adhere to the golden rule of hairdressing -- work with what you've got. Instead of focusing on Sassoon's endlessly fascinating life -- filled with models, movie stars, international fame and fortune -- director Craig Teper wastes half the bio-doc trying to persuade the audience (or himself?) that Sassoon's skill -- he's a hairdresser! -- is worthy of such adulation.
Mrs. Sinatra's new 'do was a technical knockout

While life-changing moments like the pixie cut he gave Mia Farrow for "Rosemary's Baby" are given scant minutes of screen time -- "It was on television. It was in all the newspapers. It was at Paramount, Studio 13, I think, and it was in a boxing ring they had on set. The press was supposed to stay out of the ring and photograph from there. Well, that lasted about two minutes. ... It was a total madhouse," Sassoon recalled to The Hollywood Reporter recently -- we are bombarded with testimonials from every former stylist, colorist and shampoo boy who ever set foot in one of his salons, all saying essentially the same thing. "He was amazing!" "The world had never seen something like this before!" "The angles ... the angles." Oh, and "the angles!"
Grace Coddington made her point

While Sassoon's technique may very well have been revolutionary something about people calling him a messiah and comparing him to Einstein ended up having the opposite effect of what was clearly intended. I burst out laughing. (The way these people were acting, -you'd have thought his famed "five-point cut" had cured polio.) The film didn't completely ignore his '70s heyday, when he moved to Beverly Hills and became more famous than many of his celebrity clients, starring in his own talk show, regularly appearing on game shows and working the talk show circuit. But they'd have achieved a much nicer look with a lot more New York and Hollywood, and a lot less shop talk. (Could someone have at least mentioned who came up with "If you don't look good, we don't look good"?)

The film opens with a voice stating, "It's impossible to overestimate the importance of Vidal Sassoon." Unfortunately for the film's protagonist -- and the audience -- the director figured out a way to prove this to be untrue.


jnxwil said...

Sad commentary on how affluence makes people stupid. If they were spending more time trying to survive economically, they would hardly care about hair.

Wild About Hairy said...

I work in the beauty industry, very closely with the Sassoon organization. It has always mystified me how cult-ish they are, especially around the personality of Vidal. Yes, he revolutionized how modern women wear their hair, moving them from the shampoo sets of the sixties to the wash and wear of the seventies. His method of precision cutting and creating Bauhaus-inspired shapes are certainly innovative. Check, check.
But this latest attempt to lionize him is just so self-indulgent - a cinematic incarnation of the emperor's new clothes. Considering that he sold his name to a large company, who developed the product line (and the tag line you referred to) and made him a household word and then tried to sue them for "ruining his name" later - the story seems oddly one-sided. Ultimately, he is a glorious chapter in the evolution of modern beauty, however he is not the second coming.